Before Wes Craven had a New Nightmare and well before Michael Haneke faced down his audience with contempt in not one but two versions of Funny Games, Lucio Fulci was deconstructing the director's and audience's relationship to onscreen violence in 1990's Cat in the Brain. Of the three films, this is easily the trippiest, least focused, and most seriously over the top. It is the sort of film that, when it ends will leave you wondering just what it is that you saw. It walks the line between reality and dream — and it is a thin line, to be sure.
When Fulci made this film his best years were behind him. It had been a long time since he created anything along the lines of Zombi or The Beyond. Instead of helming classics, he was working his way back down the list with such titles as Touch of Death and The Ghosts of Sodom. Not content to continue down this path, Fulci decided to go the experimental route, putting himself front and center on the screen in a film that challenges his position as a horror auteur, even going so far as to recycle some footage from those lesser films.
Cat in the Brain, also known as Nightmare Concert, takes a look at the fragile nature of a horror director's mind. It is purely fiction, of course, but the way he flips the idea of what such a person is like in reality is quite interesting. Not only does it do that, but we also get to see what can happen to a fan if they consume too much of the auteur's dark product. What makes those fascinating subjects even more entertaining is the exploitative manner in which the points are made. The movie is constructed as much to titillate the audience as it is to be a thought-provoking journey.
The story, such as it is, plays on the idea that the public believes that people who create these dark, gory, perverse works must also be dark and perverse. Seriously though, who else could make these things, there has to be something wrong with them, right? No, not really. In Cat in the Brain, our central character, a fictionalized (?) version of Lucio Fulci, playing himself, finds himself slowly losing his mind during a particularly troubling movie shoot.